“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Friday, May 17, 2013

History and Politics of the Anthropocene: Fredrik Albritton Jonsson

I’m going to give an autobiographical slant. 
I started as Scots Enlightenment historian >> environmental history
I was often disappointed by US environmental historians
Preservation (Muir >> Carson); sustainability, equilibrium ill defined
global transnational history not there
race, cold war science, etc etc not quite there
this scene has changed drastically in the last decade or two
“envirotech” historians do draw attention to the social bases of forecasting
we are also moving from an ethos of false clarity of preservationist idealism towards a much more pessimistic and anxious recognition of moral and political complexity and failure
it’s a dark picture but it’s also a salutary one
dubious distinction between human society and pure wilderness must go
economy <> geophysics <> ecology
how to manage over the very long run
pandora’s jar of unexpected and wicked trade offs
can we curtail emissions without abandoning human rights and social justice? 
must we abandon economic growth?
or is some kind of geoengineering required?
how do we form an effective policy on a quasi geological time scale? 
this offers an exhilarating intellectual moment for the humanities and social sciences
rethink history, modernity, energy, nature, growth, politics, species, scientific authority
we mean to begin and carry on this conversation

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